Old Music Feels Oddly New

My recording life started in Montreal with dozens of MSO recordings under Charles Dutoit and I am reminded of this every time that I return to this beautiful city.

This week, I am playing a concerto on baroque bassoon at a special benefit concert being held at the Salle Mercure of Centre Pierre-Péladeau. VIVA GRAUPNER features diverse concerti by Christoph Graupner and is the brainchild of Geneviève Soly, director of the baroque ensemble, Les Idées Heureses. This concert will showcase 9 concerti and will be recorded by CBC for future broadcast. Here is a recent article in Le Devoir about Geneviève’s decade-long labour of dedicated championing of Graupner.

Geneviève has assembled a very lively group of musicians and the atmosphere is one of discovery as each newly-edited concerto is rehearsed (I was going to say released). I am opting to sit in the continuo section when I am not playing my solo… it is always really enjoyable to play with hot basso players and it gives me time to get really comfortable with my baroque bassoon.
Though Geneviève has strong opinions and knows this composer deeply, she is also welcomes my interpretation, occasionally exclaiming, as she dutifully makes notes in her score, that she has never done it this way yet is intrigued and amused.
Unknown to myself, I was nervous for the first reading, and confounded one of the simple rhythms in the first andante and then my F key lost a screw and twanged to the floor. Things got better though and today, I somehow was able to live in the sure knowledge that this music is lightly written in ways that allow for inspiration in the moment — the music allows for as much invention as I am capable of mustering, either in tone, articulation or ornaments. The strings respond in kind and discover effects that I could never have imagined. Geneviève has boundless energy and enthusiasm, offering to repeat movements in different ways… this kind of pneumatic, terrier-like involvement is wonderful to me, and gives many opportunities to start to learn the voice of this composer.
And I am discovering a voice that is by turns tender, suave, dark, earthy, humorous in a ways both sly and candid — though written sometime around 1744, this concerto (GWV 307) feels oddly new and is a thrill.
And when we walk out on stage next Monday, the microphones will be standing like slim sentinels, my silent, all-hearing familiars in my small world of endless discovery.